So, here we are ending 2011. Seems that a lot (or maybe just a little) has changed over this past year within the circle of bloggers and gamers I interact with, but generally I’ve seen a degree of movement toward being more positive in their outlook on the games or type of games they play. Ironically, I just saw a couple of them on Twitter yesterday complaining how negative so many are getting, full of complaints, shouting, whining, you name it. Apparently I don’t follow those people, and that’s fine by me.
I’m sure everyone who still reads this has noticed my marked neglect of Pumping Irony this year. I just didn’t feel it, for the most part. I had a lot of fun writing about Champions Online‘s first Comic Series, though my glass cannon character got stuck (and still is) on the final fight. The draft post is still sitting there since July waiting for me to finish it, meanwhile Cryptic has the second Comic Series currently running. For the most part, I’ve damn near given up on MMOs, and what’s left of my readership are primarily MMO Gamers. Right now the exception is Star Trek Online but the catch is, MMO or not, I don’t play that like an MMO. Other than that, I’ve mostly gaming on the Xbox 360, which has become my preferred platform for everything except MMOs for now.
[This is the "glass is half empty" paragraph] That leaves me in a predicament. I’m barely playing MMOs and when I do, I’m still not bothering to write MMO blog posts. I’m mostly active these days on Google+ where everyone who’s moved there too has been far more accepting of my non-MMO and non-gaming interests. I’m still deciding, but don’t be shocked if I just pull the plug on Pumping Irony. I know one of the top rules for writing is "write for yourself," but this is a blog, not literature. If I get the interaction I seek elsewhere – in this case, Google+ – then elsewhere gets my focus.
[Now for the "glass is half full" treatment] However, I’ve also made a pact with myself to write more in 2012. I have Pumping Irony, and I have a few other blogs that have nothing to do with gaming at all. I’ve neglected all of them, so one way or another I’ve promised myself to take time to write on at least one of them, and to finally pick up writing fiction again. So, in one form or another, I expect more writing out of myself next year even if it’s in a location you gamer-only readers never see. I enjoy the creativity involved in putting words to
paper pixel, the behind-the-scenes research, and hopefully learning new additions to my vocabulary.
What I’ve Been Doing
Other than the aforementioned Star Trek Online, as I said I’ve mostly been on the Xbox 360. But what fantastic games came out this year! The past few months (and upcoming few still) was an onslaught of AAA titles that are well-deserving of anyone’s hard-earned cash.
Skyrim. Obviously the big recent RPG was Bethesda’s Skyrim. Finally, Bethesda made a game that gets it right for me. Oblivion was a chore for me to slog through a few months ago, but I did it mostly out of spite. With Skyrim, on the other hand, I finally "got" what people say about Bethesda’s games being mostly about the exploration. Oblivion was bland – nearly every environment looked identical and the same music always played. In Skyrim, everywhere I go has its own unique appearance and music. The dungeons are more varied, even though I can still spot individual 3D "tiles" (a 2D description, but you know what I mean) being re-used for dungeon construction. And something very important for me, finally a third-person view that is functional and playable! First-person melee is horrid and bland, and honestly I don’t see it improving, so putting me in a third-person camera where I can see moves that cannot be accomplished from first-person keeps the combat interesting for me.
Fallout 3. As much as I’m enjoying Skyrim, it has caused me to get an interest in finishing Fallout 3, which I last played in May, 2009. I was level 16 at the time, but I had botched a few achievements. Similar to how I played Oblivion, my goal with Fallout 3 is to finish the game (and DLC) with 100% achievements. So I deleted my previous game and started over. This time around, I still can’t say the exploration is all that exciting or interesting, but achievement-wise (which equates to quest-wise) I’ve already surpassed where I left off two years ago, but am also only level 13. I’m not spreading my points all over the place this time, mostly concentrating on small weapons and other skills that will specifically get me through the game. Which is fine, because that’s also how I prefer to play this character. Unless he gets really bad die rolls, he is far more deadly at level 13 than my former level 16 character was. And being able to quickly and violently kill the Wasteland baddies makes me smile and even laugh, which perhaps makes up for the game itself not being all that fun (from a pure "fun" perspective).
Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga. I started DKS a few months ago, and got to the point where I could become a dragon and took control of my own Battle Tower. Then other games took my attention, but I plan to get back to it as soon as possible. It’s a really good RPG with some great action moves and a lot of diversity in its freedom to create characters. I don’t often play ranged characters in RPGs (MMOs maybe but not in real RPGs) but I am in DKS and it’s a blast. Some of the higher-tier abilities are just awesome to behold, and I’ve enjoyed the story so far.
Battlefield 3. This is my new go-to shooter. I can’t say I’m 100% satisfied with it, especially some of the maps like Operation Metro that seem like more of a nod towards the Call of Duty style of gameplay, but when I’m playing on a _real_ Battlefield map, I get that _real_ Battlefield feel again.
Gears of War 3. I’ve always like the campaigns in the Gears of War series but I’ve never been a fan of the multiplayer, which I tend to describe as "shoulder rolling with shotguns." I’m just not that good at it, and because it is built around small teams (5v5) that makes me more of a liability to my team, so in Gears 1 and 2 I mostly chose to just avoid multiplayer altogether. Gears 3 is no exception – I’m still avoiding the competitive multiplayer – but with four-player co-op, Horde 2.0 and the new Beast game modes, there is so much variety with Gears of War 3 that I’ll probably give this one my vote for best value overall.
Modern Warfare 3. I own it. I finished the campaign, which was fun (for me, the best part of any Call of Duty) and finished up the series’ storyline. Multiplayer is horrible, though. As much as Black Ops multiplayer pissed me off last year, I gradually learned to at least tolerate it and would often play it even without friends. MW3 has caused me to violently rage-quit almost every single match, though. COD games have always been hyper-fast and hyper-twitchy, but MW3 seems to have finally crossed some invisible line in the sand that pushes it over the edge for me. It’s just not fun, and I do not enjoy dying, watching the killcam and seeing the guy didn’t even hit me, respawning and dying again before I can count to 5. I also don’t enjoy when I kill someone when I never hit him either. It’s sad when the COD franchise is a license to print money yet the multiplayer experience actually degrades with each iteration. In a related note, I did finally start the Black Ops campaign recently, and I’m about halfway through it. Since I only played multiplayer this past year, I had no idea whatsoever the game was set in the 1960s. Strange, but it seems to have put a slight damper on whatever semblance of positivity I felt towards the game.
Saints Row the Third. Over the top craziness in an open world. Where the GTA series went all serious on us, the SR series relishes in its zaniness. I’m not finished with the campaign yet, but think I’m getting close. The co-op is a lot of fun, though it’s a shame it still only accommodates two players. Like Gears of War 3, this one has been enough fun that I went ahead and bought the Season Pass which discounts all upcoming mission DLC.
Forza Motorsports 4. I’m not usually into racing games, especially the more sim-like ones that lock me onto the track, but Forza 4 has been quite enjoyable on a casual basis. I also picked up Test Drive Unlimited 2 which is a sorta-kinda MMO (they refer to it as a MOOR – Massively Open Online Racing) game.
Also plenty of other 360 and XBLA games have been in my roster, with more to come. I’ll try to do a better job of writing about them as we enter the new year!